The son of an itinerant sharecropper, Roy Barcroft harbored dreams of becoming an army officer, and to that end lied about his age to enter the service during World War I. Discouraged from pursuing a military career by his wartime experiences, Barcroft spent the 1920s in a succession of jobs, ranging from fireman to radio musician. In the 1930s he and his wife settled in California where he became a salesman. It was while appearing in an amateur theatrical production that Barcroft found his true calling in life. He eked out a living as a movie bit player until finally being signed to a long contract by Republic Pictures in 1943. For the next decade, Barcroft was Republic's Number One villain, growling and glowering at such cowboy stars as Don "Red" Barry, Wild Bill Elliot, Sunset Carson, Allan Lane, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. His best screen moments occurred in Republic's serial output; his favorite chapter-play roles were Captain Mephisto in Manhunt of Mystery Island (1945) and the invading Martian in The Purple Monster Strikes (1945). In the 1948 serial G-Men Never Forget, Barcroft played a dual role--an honest police commissioner and his less-than-honest look-alike--ending the film by shooting "himself." In contrast to his on-screen villainy, Barcroft was one of the nicest fellows on the Republic lot, well-liked and highly respected by everyone with whom he worked. When the "B"-picture market disappeared in the mid-1950s, Barcroft began accepting character roles in such A-pictures as Oklahoma (1955), The Way West (1967), Gaily Gaily (1969) and Monte Walsh (1970). Heavier and more jovial-looking than in his Republic heyday, Roy Barcroft also showed up in dozens of TV westerns, playing recurring roles on Walt Disney's Spin and Marty and the long-running CBS nighttimer Gunsmoke.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Joined the U.S. Army when he was 15 and served in World War I.
- Was previously a salesman and took up acting in amateur theatre productions to improve his voice as a salesman.
- Played clarinet and saxophone for dance bands around Chicago before moving to Los Angeles in 1929.
- Reportedly altered his last name from Ravenscroft to Barcroft considering it easier to spell and remember, and rationalizing that it would get him near the top of casting lists for extra and character jobs.
- Frequently played villains in low-budget westerns, and starred in nearly 150 films and serials throughout his career.